Government promises action over surge in refugee numbers

Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees gather at the Calais port, a departure point for ships bound for Britain, on October 4, 2013.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The people who make the journey to Europe are mostly from poor and undemocratic countries.
  • They pay outrageous sums to gangs who promise to transport them overland from their home countries to Britain. 

Violent scenes of Europe-bound migrants at the Belarus-Poland border have seized the international limelight, but Britain is experiencing a similar crisis, with a huge surge in refugees crossing the English Channel by boat. 

The numbers arriving this year are three times higher than those in 2020 – more than 25,700 so far against 8,469 in all of last year. A new record for a single day was set on November 11, when 1,185 foreigners reached the UK. 

The migrants’ boats are often overcrowded and unseaworthy, and travellers, including children, drown regularly. At least 10 are known to have met their deaths in the last few weeks. British lifeboats patrol the Channel watching for dinghies in danger and bringing the passengers ashore. 

British people tend to blame the government for not being tougher, as well as Brexit for making it more difficult to send immigrants back, and/or France for failing to police its beaches properly. 

The people who make the journey to Europe are mostly from poor and undemocratic countries, including Yemen, Eritrea, Chad, Sudan, Iraq and Iran. They pay outrageous sums to gangs who promise to transport them overland from their home countries to Britain. 

Ruthless criminal gangs

The British government claims to have the gangsters in its sights. A Home Office spokesperson said, “The public has had enough of seeing people die in the Channel while ruthless criminal gangs profit from their misery.”

Changes are being proposed to immigration law which would set a maximum sentence of life in prison for anyone facilitating illegal Channel crossings. The new rules would also mean that people seeking refugee status will be judged partly on how they arrived here and those using illegal means will not have the same entitlement to claim asylum. 

Although Channel crossings have soared, overall asylum claims have dropped slightly this year, apparently because of a switch of strategy by claimants. In the past, migrants often came by aircraft or tried to enter hidden in trucks. However, the Covid pandemic and increased security have made these routes less viable. 

Another reason for the upsurge could be that migrants are racing to cross before winter weather makes it too dangerous or impossible. 

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It’s part of football, isn’t it, shouting abuse at the referee for decisions you don’t like? 

True enough, but sometimes spectators and coaches go too far, even in schoolboy games, and in one part of the UK, they are doing something about it. 

On a recent weekend, 21 referees were withdrawn from Northumberland Football League fixtures, forcing coaches and parents to referee matches themselves and get a taste of what it’s like to officiate. 

The action, supported by the League, was a direct result of unacceptable levels of abuse since the start of the season. 

Further plans include mandatory posters to be displayed by all clubs, with messages such as “Any dissent to referees will result in you being removed from this venue,” and “Ref Abuse Stops Now,” also “Zero Tolerance in Force”. 

The general manager of the League, Ian Coates, said referees “are receiving horrendous verbal abuse when they make an honest mistake or make a decision that not everyone agrees with. 

“Without our referees, there would be no football, so let’s all move forward together in a positive manner.”

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Forecasts about the future can sound amazing or scary or plain daft, but it’s good to know about them, if only to be prepared. 

The latest look ahead, by futurists of the NatWest Bank, suggests there will be restaurants where we eat only insects, that virtual reality will be so good we will not bother with foreign holidays, we will routinely hire robots from shops in the high street and 3D-printed organs could make waiting lists a thing of the past. 

Dr Ian Pearson said, “A greater interaction with technology is going to revolutionise businesses.” 

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Talking of technology... a man walks into a bar and asks for the Wi-Fi password.

The bar tender says, “You have to buy a drink first.”

OK, the customer says, “I’ll take a beer.”

He pays five pounds for the beer and asks again for the password.

Says the bar tender, “You have to buy a drink first. No spaces, all lower case.” 

***

A daughter calls to have her mother’s phone disconnected, but the customer service rep says that since the account is in her dad’s name, he is the one who must make the request. The fact that he has been dead for 30 years doesn’t seem to register with the company rep. The daughter has a brainwave: “If I stop paying the bill, you will turn off the service, right?” “Well, yes,” says the rep reluctantly, “but that will ruin his credit.” 

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